There is still a great deal of confusion among some drivers about how often a car needs to be serviced.
Is it based on time elapsed since its last service or mileage? Do cars that are less than three years old need servicing?
If your car has just passed its MOT does this mean it doesn’t need a service?
Why regular servicing matters
Under no circumstances should you view an MOT test as an alternative to servicing your vehicle, as it is only a basic safety check. A full service is recommended every 12,000 miles or 12 months (whichever happens first). If you use your vehicle for city driving or it does higher than average mileage (more than 12,000 miles annually) it’s an idea to supplement the full service with an interim one every six months (or 6,000 miles). However, you should check with the vehicle manufacturer to be certain.
It is a false economy, both in the long and short term, not to have your vehicle serviced regularly. A properly-maintained car is not only more fuel-efficient, but will be safer and more reliable as faults will come to light at an earlier stage and are less likely to result in a breakdown. It will also limit the amount of wear and tear on your car, which means it will hold its value when you come to sell it.
What a service includes
There is no such thing as a standard service – it varies widely and depends on the make and model of the car. Check in your vehicle handbook for its servicing requirements or with the manufacturer. Remember to ask for extras that may not be in the handbook such as replacing anti-freeze and brake fluid every couple of years.
As a general rule, the service should include the routine lubrication of all working parts, hinges and catches, an oil change, oil filter change, new spark plugs (petrol models) or new fuel filter. In addition, a garage should carry out safety checks on ball joints, tyres, steering and suspension components, ensure all lights are in good working order, check the fan belt tension, check fluid levels (for example, clutch fluid) are correct and there are no leaks. The vehicle’s general safety should also be assessed, such as seat belts and wipers. Again this may be subject to the degree of wear and tear that the vehicle is subjected to.
An interim service is much more basic and generally involves an oil and oil filter change, and possibly new spark plugs or fuel filter.
Choosing the right garage
To ensure your vehicle undergoes a professional service, verify that the garage is a reputable one, VAT-registered or a member of a professional association and that the parts and fluids are the genuine manufacturer’s products for your car. Don’t be afraid to ask for references or talk to others who may have used the garages services.
To avoid misunderstandings with the garage or an unexpectedly high bill, be very clear with the garage that you do not give prior consent to any additional work that needs to be undertaken. Ask them to contact you in order to receive authorisation if anything extra is needed other than what the service price covers. Ask for a detailed invoice, which includes all parts, labour and VAT.
New cars and warranties
In 2004 the Office of Fair Trading lifted the servicing restrictions that tied consumers into servicing by garages belonging to the manufacturer’s franchised dealer network, giving owners the freedom to choose where to have their vehicle serviced. However, the service must be carried out to the car manufacturer’s recommendations. Check the warranty as some extensions have conditions, for example there may be a clause stipulating a service at specific mileage intervals.